Light bulbs and cadence..

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Junior Member
Jan 16, 2015
Many of you have seen my difficulties in embracing the glory that pipe smoking should be as posted on this forum. Not having anyone with pipe smoking experience around me, I was left to my own devices and the advice from the internet. Not always a bad thing.. Experience is a great teacher, and the internet has great information, the trouble is that without seeing what is going on it is sometimes difficult to diagnose.
Like most new pipe smokers I was always afraid I was packing too tightly, because that is far and away the most common advice given to new pipe smokers. With all my troubles keeping my pipe lit, and smoking past the bottom 1/3 regardless if I was smoking english, va/per, or aro nothing worked. I tried packing 3lbs of tobacco into a pocket pipe, 5 strands of ribbon cut into a 2"x1" freehand bowl, and just about ever packing density in between. I tried as many loading techniques as I could find videos and write ups on. I googled "sipping" probably every other week, because after packing too tightly, don't puff is the next more common advice. Again, without seeing someone else sip vs puff it is difficult to finesse your way through it by only reading it. At least for me it was. I was constantly reminding myself that pipe smoking was supposed to be relaxing, and needs to be taken slowly, not like a freight train. So I sipped lightly, and slowly. I would constantly work on my char light, true light, and relight (trust me, I had tons of experience here!). Yet, nothing seemed to change. Ever. Packing tighter did help, but was only 1 small step.
I also found myself in an endless cycle of knowing I wasn't burning to the bottom because I wasn't building cake (really any where), and I was building cake because I wasn't burning to the bottom. How to remedy that? Just keep smoking. Cake will build. Well, it never did.
Maybe tamping was my problem? Again, tamping pressure is subjective and cannot be accurately described via text and video. So working through the frustration of every time I tamped with only the weight of my Czech tool, tamped with 40lbs pressure, or anywhere in between the pipe went out. Someday I just felt like the hits would never end...
A few days ago for whatever reason I was thinking about cadence, and truthfully there isn't a lot of great information about cadence. Mostly don't smoke fast and hard, and don't puff like a cigar is all you will find. My cadence was trying to appease all of the advice I had gotten... Sip lightly, and slow... but apparently my idea of slow and what I should have been doing were two different things. I was sipping probably once every 30-45 seconds, because SLOW was the name of the game. Sometimes more frequently, sometimes a puff here and there to try and keep the ember warm. So throwing out all the advice I have heard, and read... I started over. I packed as tight as I thought I should to get a good draw. Lit the pipe like I had done it a million times (so far I'm only around 645,000 lights, w 644,800 being relights). And decided to sip the pipe every 7-15 seconds... Sometimes longer between. Sometimes a puff (but not a room filling puff). Sometimes a double sip. Strange things began to happen. I had tons of smoke from my H&H Daybreak. My pipe was warm all over, not just around the rim or top 1/3. 30 minutes in with 2 relights, and half the pipe turned to a gray/white fluffy substance I had only read about. No hint of a gurgle. No tamping needed. I even forgot about the pipe for maybe a minute in the midst of reading, took a sip and thought for sure the pipe was out when I go no smoke, then for whatever I puffed a touch harder and smoke reappeared like some form of wizardry. Back in action! The last 1/4 of the pipe was a touch difficult, with an eventual gurgle but that was my fault. When things finally come together and you realize it, you tend to start thinking too much, sipping too much, and the pipe burns too hot. No big deal, I can fix that problem next time!
To the veteran pipe smokers, thank you for all of your advice. Even though I may not have been able to implement everything that was said, or reply to every piece of advice, taking the time to help the new guys is very much appreciated. Yes, even when we want to throw the pipe into the river. Please don't get stuck on the packing too tight aspect. Yes, it can and does happen, but try to explain all the aspects of smoking that could cause problems (yes I know the possibilities are endless) because as difficult as it is for you to diagnose what we are doing wrong over the internet, it is even more difficult for us new guys to figure out exactly what you mean through text only. And lastly, please have patience with us new pipe smokers, we do want your help, and appreciate you taking the time to type out a reply to the questions you read over and again weekly.



Mar 5, 2015
Congratulations! I feel the same way. I am also without a mentor, and it does sometimes get frustrating. My approach to just about everything in life is similar to what you described, take as much information as you can and put it together in a way that works for me. Hope you can find much more enjoyment from here on out!



Preferred Member
Nov 12, 2014
Have you tried breath smoking?



Aug 26, 2014
Puerto Rico
This was excellently written. Many of us can identify. It is difficult learning how to smoke a pipe effectively through youtube, the forums, and other online media because there are no B&Ms where you live, there are no other pipe smokers within a 25 mile radius, no pipe clubs within reasonable driving distance, or for whatever other reason. Yes, experience is the best teacher, and it may take a bit more trial and error, but we'll eventually get there, to the point where smoking becomes relatively effortless and one can just focus on the relaxation and enjoyment of the pipe instead of stressing over the mechanics with each sip.

One has to thank the members of this community for their patience. Not a few minutes pass after someone posts a question when you guys come to their aid with a huge wealth of insights, opinions, and/or personal experiences.



Mar 2, 2015
That was a great read, thanks for sharing. Sounds like you are doing just fine!



Preferred Member
Sep 30, 2011
Yea. Well written indeed. I even laughed a couple times.
A third for breath smoking. Really, really helpful.



Mar 18, 2014
Also, from my experience, I could never figure how people could get through a bowl in 45 minutes or so. By going as slow as possible my bowls were 2 plus hours!

Cadence has a lot of variables within (volume, velocity, etc.) and only the individual, can dial it in.



Preferred Member
Aug 20, 2013
I read of two difficulties, packing and smoking slowly.
The two biggest concerns in packing are the burn and having more space in the bottom of the bowl and less at the top. For years I put a layer in the bottom of the bowl, very lightly packing with it with my pinky, and another and another, each with slight pinky pressure. The consequence was that although it burned well enough, I invariably had to chase an open draw with plunging with cleaners three or four times to establish it at the beginning of the bowl.
After about a decade of holding to my idea that if I put more tobacco in the chamber, I would have a longer smoke, and thus a better smoke, I changed. About 18 months ago I decided to give up that idea and think about what was actually needed. Half a dozen packing ideas later, I now simply gravity drop the tobacco to the top of the bowl and more, into a mound. I strictly keep my fingers out of the bowl and only use the slightest pressure to push the mound into the bowl, easing the tobacco at the top into the chamber. I ease it downward into place until the slightest indication of resistance. I don't believe that this results in a pack much more than what is in place from the gravity drop for the lower two-thirds of the bowl, but it perhaps does for the upper third. At any rate, this keeps relights to a minimum, perhaps because there is more oxygen in the bowl, not displaced by tobacco as it would be from a firmer pack. But yes, I still have to plunge with a cleaner to open the airway, but perhaps two-thirds less.
Slow smoking/smoking cadence/smoking technique is a very large topic. Let me try to establish the following succinctly:
1. The breath is the fundamental rhythm of life.

2. If you're trying to slow down, the best rhythm for this is the breath; thus slow smoking is best done to the rhythm of the breath

3 .Sipping is mandatory

4. The restlessness of the mind is the biggest enemy in slow smoking. This turbulence leads us away from the concentration needed to focus on technique and toward taking too large puffs.

5. Be patient with smoking technique. It takes a long time. The big guys who walk around with a continuous pipe, balancing the burn between a smolder and going out, referring to their pouch as necessary and puffing contently on, are mostly old. It took years for them to be able to do this. It's been the hardest thing for me to do this, and I am by no means there. But I am paying much closer attention to discomfort in my mouth. If there's any irritation, I stop smoking and merely hold the pipe in my teeth.
If I don't smoke consciously, no matter what I'm doing, I puff too much and too large. I have to smoke the pipe consciously, otherwise I revert to old habits.



Preferred Member
Dec 14, 2013
Also, from my experience, I could never figure how people could get through a bowl in 45 minutes or so. By going as slow as possible my bowls were 2 plus hours!
I've always been amazed (perplexed?) when I hear people talk about a 2 plus hour smoke! I've been smoking a pipe off and on (more often these past few years) since the 70's and I've never experienced a 2 hour smoke. I'm not saying it can't happen, but damn... those 2 plus hour smokes must be coming from on hell of a large pipe with a tobacco that is impregnated with asbestos! :wink:



Preferred Member
May 12, 2015
Monterey Peninsula
You have a larger imagination than I have! I dismissed it as pure hyperbole, or from a different time dimension than the one I am familiar with.



Mar 18, 2014
Also, from my experience, I could never figure how people could get through a bowl in 45 minutes or so. By going as slow as possible my bowls were 2 plus hours!

I've always been amazed (perplexed?) when I hear people talk about a 2 plus hour smoke! I've been smoking a pipe off and on (more often these past few years) since the 70's and I've never experienced a 2 hour smoke. I'm not saying it can't happen, but damn... those 2 plus hour smokes must be coming from on hell of a large pipe with a tobacco that is impregnated with asbestos! :wink:
Fair enough. I'm not sure if two hours is an accrurate number. But one "sip" every 45seconds is three times longer than one "sip" every 15 seconds (not to

mention the time for dozens of relights) and a 45minute smoke becomes 2hrs ish!
In the beginning two coins of escudo seemed to be endless!



Preferred Member
Jan 31, 2015
Thanks 4nogginsmike.
I have also been migrating more and more towards gravity packing only.
Question: Do you tap the side of the bowl while gravity packing? Or do you skip that too? I have found that even tapping the side of the bowl can lead to too dense a pack sometimes.



New member
Nov 29, 2014
You know, stflorian, I've recently been discovering the same things you describe. I was packing a little too loose, smoking a little too slow and far too moist. I've started cutting my tobacco and air drying it a bit before packing it, instead of just opening a jar and packing it right in. I've also found that when my pipe is starting to "burn weak", and I'm losing heat or not getting much smoke, it helps to put two fingers over the bowl. Taking a long, slow pull while only letting air in through the small crack between my fingers seems to help the ember soak in to the unlit tobacco underneath.
By no means am I becoming an expert, but I'm okay with that. If I wanted a thoughtless process, I'd have taken up marlboros, not the briar.



New member
Aug 16, 2015
I think packing too loose, too wet, and smoking too slow are the more common pitfalls among newbies who do their research going in.
Drinking soda through a straw is a very ambiguous description, how big of a straw are we talking about here? I found that just slightly less than milkshake for ribbon cuts was best if the tobacco is dry enough. With rubbed out flakes, that can be too tight though, depending on how wet the tobacco is. I still am trying to figure out flakes, it seems the moisture that is trapped between the strands of tobacco can play a lot of havoc, as the tobacco can seem dry to the touch, but once you add heat, all that moisture gets released, and now things are too wet.
The descriptor "dry" also covers a very wide spectrum of moisture. I find with ribbon cut, I generally need to get the moisture down to just slightly wetter than Manil's semois as it comes packed. When I used to roll my own cigarettes, I found that the tobacco had to be a bit wet to hold it together while rolling and that once it got "dried out", that I needed to add more moisture to it. The point at which the tobacco becomes too dry to roll would be slightly on the high end of where I find ribbon cut needs to be for moisture.
As for cadence, you get these old timers that say they pull every 30 seconds to a minute. That is great, but is absolutely silly for a newbie to try to do this. For a newbie, I think every 10 seconds, give or take 5 seconds, is where you need to be to get things to work, moderating as needed to keep things from getting too hot. The admonition to never puff or do a double draw should be taken with a grain of salt. Yeah its not something you want to do often, but it has to be done to get the pipe stoked again periodically when you get off cadence, unless you want to relight. The problem with relights, is that it is easy to overheat the tobacco with the relight, and put more moisture into the bottom of your bowl as a result. The fewer relights you can get away with, the better the chance of smoking to near the bottom of the bowl without much hassle. As such, periodic puffs and judicial use of a tamper can help a lot here. Tamping is an art though, and one I am still figuring out.
Lastly, trying to learn on a new pipe that still needs to be broken in, will be an exercise in frustration. Learning on a good, but not too expensive, well broken in estate or cob would help here, keeping in mind you are still going to be too hard on your first pipe and possibly ruin it.



Preferred Member
Mar 1, 2014
Over the last year and a half I was probably puffing every 2-3 seconds just to keep my pipe lit (not always, it depends on the blend), but now that I've decided to concentrate on practicing a cadence that's healthy for my mouth I actually can't draw more than once a minute.

There's no middle ground, I have to figure out how to keep a pipe going at that pace.
One interesting technique I've learned to "stoke the coals" so to speak, especially with a churchwarden, is to rapidly push a tiny bit of air back and forth without "drawing" a significant amount of smoke, and usually bring the pipe back to a good burn.

I've actually been doing that almost since I started last year, and haven't seen anything negative happen as a result.

And of course I still need to play with chopping, grinding and drying tobacco more.



Preferred Member
Feb 1, 2014
Augusta, Ga
So throwing out all the advice I have heard, and read... I started over.
Great reading stflorian! I especially liked what I quoted from you. Many things in my life have come to me automatically after I stopped trying so hard. It doesn't really matter how other people do it, its what I find works for me.
I do(and still do) appreciate the help from others here on subjects pertaining to pipe smoking however. Experience has shown me how to smoke different blends and what pipes work best. I have a rotation of pipes and tobaccos that I go thru every day which to me helps me keep my taste buds happy. Variety is the spice of life after all. But you know, that's just me. We all must find our own path I guess. There is no "right way" to smoke a pipe in my book.



Preferred Member
Jun 3, 2015
2 hour smokes
This happens for me a lot with my briars. Usually it's flake tobaccos that I fold and stuff, of course that's relight heaven. I usually smoke cobs, I like them better, plus I have a better chance of reducing the relights with cobs.



Junior Member
Oct 28, 2015
This thread really hit on a few points where I need to improve. I don't think I have been letting my tobacco dry enough before packing. And the relight causing excess heat/moisture release really illuminated where I need to focus my improvements.